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Gordon Campbell on the John Key smear attack

Gordon Campbell on the John Key smear attack, Russia’s sports doping and Allen Toussaint

The rationale behind Prime Minister John Key’s smear attack against Labour yesterday (and the subsequent walkout from Parliament) was obvious enough. When you’re in a hole, don’t even try to explain why – on your watch – New Zealand citizens are being thrown into concentration camps, deported and having their families torn apart by a bunch of Australian goons on what – in the majority of cases – is a dubious legal pretext. Any way you try to explain just why the Australians have simply brushed you aside as you witter on about the spirit of Anzac – and without even giving you the courtesy of keeping you informed about what is happening – you’ll lose, big time. Simple truth is we’re being kicked around by Australians big time, and all that John Key is saying is: do it faster.

By yesterday, Key was so compromised he couldn’t even bring himself to ask the Australians to show restraint and/or allow time for a negotiated solution on Christmas Island… before New Zealand citizens began to be beaten up indiscriminately. Instead, Key simply changed the subject. Repeatedly, he accused his accusers of cuddling up to rapists, murderers and child molesters.

All up, it was a classic dead cat strategy.

The dead cat strategy? Back in 2013, London mayor Boris John son wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph that explained this idea, which he’d learned first hand from the Australian political consultant Lynton Crosby:

“Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and, the more people focus on the reality, the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner [Crosby] describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate.’

That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table—and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’; in other words, they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

Indeed. As a result of Key’s dead cat manoeuvre yesterday, the headlines today are not about the brutal treatment of New Zealanders, and/or the silence on that subject by our grinning Vacuum-In-Chief. It is not even about Australia and its concentration camps for the same refugees it has previously vowed to protect under the UN Refugee Convention – or about our reluctance to confront Australia about these breaches of international law, even while we sit impotently on the UN Security Council. (As mentioned, we’ve merely urged the Australians to speed up the deportations!)

No surprise either that Speaker David Carter should have ruled on Key’s outburst in such a blindly partisan fashion yesterday. Carter has become a Parliamentary disgrace. No surprise either that Justice Minister Amy Adams should try to defend the appalling behaviour of her leader. Yet the striking thing about Adams was how little she seemed to know about who the returnees are, where they were being kept, and what they’d done to qualify for deportation. Surely that’s the most basic information, if you’re truly intent on keeping the decent law abiding citizenry safe here at home. “In the main” Adams said, these are serious criminals, but she seemed to have no evidence for the assertion. Or on how many New Zealanders were on Christmas Island and why – beyond assuming that the Australians must have had good reason for sending them there.

Neither did Key seem to have any of this relevant information when interviewed on RNZ this morning. Supposedly he and his government have been negotiating with the Australians for months – you know, so that we can ensure the country is kept safe from the wave of returnees. Yet Key and his senior Ministers were initially unable to say how many rapists, murderers or child molesters will be among the likely returnees, much less how many of these desperadoes are being kept on Christmas Island. Our government seems entirely reliant on the media for this kind of information.

Ultimately, we got the relevant information directly from the Australians, via Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. It turns out the rapists and child offenders account for nine of the 99 criminals or former criminals awaiting deportation on Christmas Island, and we have no idea how many of those offenders are New Zealanders liable to be sent back here. (At the most generous estimate 72 of the 585 offenders overall affected by the policy have been made liable to deportation as a result of serious offences.) Plainly, the nation’s security is not at risk from the returnees, beyond normal precautions. Our credibility is deeply at risk though. Our spinelessness has bred only contempt. You can bet that if we were holding scores of Aussies in concentration camps here, beating them up and indefinitely denying them ready access to lawyers and medical attention, the Australians would be kicking the doors down.

Yet this morning… we’re no longer focussed on that kind of stuff. Or on whether even serious offenders should have basic human rights afforded to them. Instead our PM has been busily engaged in reconfiguring his own impotence abroad as a brave concern for New Zealanders here at home. Strewth, mate.

Russia and Sports Doping

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report on Russia’s complicity in doping its athletes (and hiding the evidence) would have had a lot more credibility if the investigation had not been aimed so exclusively at one country… thereby all but inviting the response that WADA has been complicit in a politically motivated hit job by Western countries against Russia. Few doubt that Russia has a problem with sports doping – but calling for its exclusion from global competition seems to be an utterly absurd overreach.. Does anyone seriously think that Russia alone has this problem? Or that China and the US for example, do not and have not been drug cheats? And what about Kenya and Ethiopia?

WADA’s founder, Dick Pound, has had his own credibility problems before. When asked in 2008 about he, as a Canadian, felt about his country’s support for China within the Olympic movement, Pound chose to reply in racist fashion:

“We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European origin, while in China, we’re talking about a 5,000-year-old civilization,” said Pound in the interview. The comments were made after a question about whether the IOC was embarrassed to be affiliated with China’s political history.

Even more worryingly, when asked in 2007 to verify his claim that 30 % of players in NHL hockey were doping, Pound admitted in this interview that he had simply made the figure up:

“The estimate was given in response to a question of whether or not there was a drug problem in hockey. I had said that all sports were at risk. Did that include the NHL? Yes. How many players did I think may have used prohibited substances? I said it was hard to tell, because the players and the NHL had chummily bargained away any right to test the NHL players (for 30 or more years), but that if I had to pick a "number," I thought one would not be far wrong at 30%...”

Obviously, Russia will have to mend his ways and there are some signs that it is doing so. Reform will be needed within the global administration of athletics.

Andrey Baranov, the Russian sports agent who wrote a signed deposition to the IAAF in April 2014 detailing bribery and extortion at the highest levels of the sport….. said it was unfair that the focus was only on his own country…. “There should be a similar investigation into countries like Kenya and Ethiopia too. Their top athletes are earning far more than the Russians. Yet their levels of testing are very limited.”

While Russia’s athletes are facing suspension from international competition, Baranov believes the country should be given the chance to reform itself first. “I agree 100% with Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency]that things have to change,” he said. “But Russia has a new president of the federation and a new head coach. They are doing their best to clean up the sport….

Baranov also insisted there is a double standard…. “Lamine Diack, the former president of the IAAF, is being investigated by police – why is nobody clamouring for the IAAF to be suspended until they prove they are clean?” he argued.

Allen Toussaint RIP

The sudden death in Madrid of the New Orleans r & b giant Allen Toussaint at the age of 77 will bring forth the usual, well-deserved tributes for his great work with the Meters, Lee Dorsey, Chris Kenner, Ernie K-Doe, the Neville brothers and many others… he was a lifeline to the great New Orleans period of the 1950s and 1960s. My favourite Toussaint track was this bluesy composition, which became a mini-hit in the 1970s for the Canadian musician King Biscuit Boy.

The lyric is remarkable. The singer is advising someone trying to pick up his girlfriend in a bar, about the source of their problems. These seem to be grounded in her infertility ( “She found out she could not carry….No fruit so far/so she turns to the bottle and the bar” ) which leads to alcoholism, which leads to the current state of mutual co-dependence. All on top of a sprightly melody, sprung arrangement and wailing harmonica. Have fun.

And here’s some great footage of Lee Dorsey doing “Ride Your Pony”…

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